Monthly Archives: March 2011

New DNA Repair Process Discovery May Lead to Human Life Extension

A key component of aging is the accumulation of errors in cells genetic’ genetic code or DNA. Once enough errors accumulate, the cell makes faulty proteins leading to irreparable cell damage and death, or in some cases cancer.

In a new study published in the Journal of Biological Chemistry researchers discovered that DNA acetylation governs DNA replication and repair. This process adds acetyl groups to DNA segments which then determines what path of DNA doubling that segment will take.

Cells are known to use a high fidelity yet high energy consuming path for DNA that encodes for proteins.  A low cost yet lower fidelity pathway is used for non protein encoding segments of DNA. The acetylation process just identified tells the cell which repair process the section of DNA should undergo.

Once the process of DNA acetylation can be exploited and applied at will it is possible to ensure cells have very low DNA error rates and thus live longer.

“Our research is in the very early stages, but there is great potential here, with the capacity to change the human experience,” said Robert Bambara, Ph.D., chair of the Department of Biochemistry and Biophysics at the University of Rochester Medical Center and leader of the research. “Just the very notion is inspiring.”

Though exciting it could take a while before this research leads to human lifespan extension.

“The translational rate is becoming better and better. Today, the course between initial discovery and drug development is intrinsically faster. I could see having some sort of therapeutic that helps us live longer and healthier lives in 25 years,” said Bambara.

Source (Eureka Alert)


Filed under Article, Life Extension, Stem Cell Research

DARPA wants machine to suck all your blood out, other fun stuff

DARPA‘s budget for next year includes funding for all kinds of wild new medical technologies for military medicine, from electromagnetic tissue regeneration to a machine that can suck your blood out, clean it, and then fill you back up.

DARPA is making a major push to try to reduce battlefield casualties, and they’re pouring a lot of money into new technologies to help soldiers recover from injury. The blood-sucking machine is part of a ‘Dialysis-Like Therapeutics’ program designed to combat sepsis, which is caused by toxins in the blood. Basically, DARPA is looking for a system that can filter up to 5 liters of blood at a time, identifying and removing bacteria and viruses and poisons and other toxic stuff and then returning clean blood back into the body.

Also on the table are new autonomous diagnostic sensors that can detect both known and unknown diseases and come up with fast and effective treatments, and tissue regeneration technology that uses hordes of individually magnetized cells controlled by electromagnetic fields to encourage natural ‘scaffolding’ to promote the rapid healing of wounds.

One other exciting little nugget that somehow falls under the medical category for DARPA is the creation of artificial eyes that see as well as the biological eyes of animals. From the sound of things, the end result of the Neovision2 program will be little electronic eyeballs that can learn and recognize objects as quickly as we can, that can be tossed into dangerous situations and report back what they see. Plus, throwing disembodied eyeballs around just generally sounds like a good idea and a lot of fun!

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Filed under Article, Artificial Intelligence, Immortalism, Life Extension, Tissue rejuvenation

Convincing An Insurance Company To Pay For Sequencing A Child’s DNA

Geneticist Elizabeth Worthey worked on the first-ever treatment of a patient based on DNA sequencing, helping doctors decide to give a bone marrow transplant to a 6-year-old boy who had suffered through more than a hundred operations. Now Worthey, an assistant professor at the Medical College of Wisconsin, is part of a team working to comb through the sequences of five more children.

Every Friday, she and her colleagues at Wisconsin Children’s Hospital meet to go over cases that other doctors have put forward for DNA sequencing. There have been about three dozen requests. An insurance company has even agreed to pay for one of the cases, although the money is not yet in the bank and the hospital will not disclose either the insurer or details about the patient. This is the first time that an insurer is known to have agreed to pay for the sequencing of an entire human genome!

“For some of these kids there is no alternative,” Worthey says, “You either guess, you do nothing, or you do something — in this case, sequence their genome.”

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Filed under Article, Genetics, genomics

First tissue-engineered urethras grown from patients’ own cells

Surgeon Anthony Atala of Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center used lab-grown urethras to treat patients with damaged urinary tracts.

Five boys aged 10 to 14 were involved in the study and it took place at the Federico Gomez Children’s Hospital in Mexico City. Basically, Atala took each patient’s bladder cells and grew the cells on a scaffold. After about four to seven weeks, the cells grew into an ideal structure on the mesh-like tube and soon enough, the cells were ready for implantation.

At that point, the damaged tissue was removed and surgically replaced with the regenerative tissue custom-made for each patient. The urethra function in the male patients returned to normal and it only took three months. Even six years in, the tissue appeared to be working normally. Currently, treatment for damaged urethras involves skin grafts – but the failure rate of skin grafts is about 50 percent.

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Filed under Life Extension, Regenerative medicine, Roadmap in regenerative medicine

Aubrey de Grey at the iLabs Singularity Summit in Milan

The iLabs Singularity Summit was held this past weekend in Milan, Italy – it’s always good to see more of this sort of event happening on that side of the Atlantic. There was a strong focus on longevity science:

Biological aging is a progressive, degenerative process. As a side-effect of the everyday metabolic activities, cells in our body are damaged: year after year, the cumulative effect of this micro-damage considerably diminishes the overall efficiency of the system, leading eventually to death. … We die mainly because of ignorance: we do not know how to measure our health, we do not understand completely the side-effects of our therapies and we can’t explain the complex interplay between mind and body.

Doing something about these technological and scientific inadequacies should be far higher on most people’s to-do lists than it in fact is – we all age, we all suffer the degenerations caused by low-level biological damage. We should all be highly motivated to deal with the problem before it sucks away our ability to live, and then kills us. Alas, the present state of affairs is far from this ideal, and most people do not know or believe that the defeat of aging really is within reach. But it won’t happen soon enough unless a great many more people work hard to make it happen.

Amongst the presenters at the summit was the familiar face of Aubrey de Grey, biomedical gerontologist, SENS Foundation cofounder, and outspoken advocate for the development of rejuvenation biotechnology.

See a video interview with Aubrey de Grey taken at the summt.

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Filed under Conference, Life Extension

TED2011 – Highlights from the most recent conference

TED (Technology Entertainment and Design) conferences were founded in 1984 as a one-off event with an early emphasis on technology and design, consistent with a Silicon Valley center of gravity. The events are now held in the U.S. as well as in Europe and Asia, offering live streaming of the talks. They address an increasingly wide range of topics within the research and practice of science and culture. The speakers are given a maximum of 18 minutes to present their ideas in the most innovative and engaging ways.

Despite the strong presence from the Bio-medical, Neuroscience, Genomics, and AI spectrum, there was no real highlight placed on Life Extension. Since attendance at TED is by invitation only, we can only hope that future conferences will include discussions from gerontologists, longevity experts and anti-aging researchers to help spread the word about one of the greatest problems facing humanity.

Here are some highlights from  the conference:

Anthony Atala shows a kidney that was printed earlier in the day. Anthony Atala asks, “Can we grow organs instead of transplanting them?” His lab at the Wake Forest Institute for Regenerative Medicine is doing just that — engineering over 30 tissues and whole organs.

Eythor Bender brings out Amanda Boxtel, a wheelchair user wearing an astonishing new exoskeleton. She is walking.

Jack Horner describes his work to recreate a living dinosaur from the genes of an unlikely ancestor: What we’re trying to do is take our chicken, modify it, and make a chickenosaurus.

Harvey Fineberg argues for “neo-evolution: the new evolution that is not simply natural, but guided and chosen by us as individuals.”

Daniel Tammet is a high-functioning autistic savant, has synesthesia, and has an astonishing brain. “Personal perceptions are at the heart of how we acquire knowledge.”

See more highlights at the Ted Conference main site.

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Boston Dynamics Building Fast-Running Robot Cheetah, New Agile Humanoid

Boston Dynamics, best known for its BigDog bionic beast and other agile machines, is developing two new robots: one will be a super fast quadruped called Cheetah, the other is a freakishly scary full-size humanoid called T-800 Atlas.

The Cheetah robot will have a flexible spine, an articulated head and neck, and possibly a tail. Like the BigDog robot, Cheetah will be able to accelerate rapidly and make tight turns so it can “chase or evade,” the company said in a statement.

In fact, Boston Dynamics says Cheetah will sprint “faster than any existing legged robot and faster than the fastest human runners.”

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Filed under Artificial Intelligence, Robotics

Ray Kurzweil interviewed on PBS

Charlie Rose is an American television talk show host and journalist that engages Americas best thinkers, writers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, scientists and other newsmakers in one-on-one interviews and roundtable discussions. Recently he had the opportunity to interview Ray Kurzweil, the author, inventor and futurist that is referenced so frequently here on my blog.

The interview is presented below:

I’m interested in this notion of a coming singularity—computers surpassing humans—and your obsession with immortality. What led you there?
I really started with this exploration of where technology is headed and the tremendous power of exponential growth. So where radical life extension comes from is the observation that biology is a set of software processes. We have software running in our bodies. It’s out of date. It evolved thousands of years ago. Our approach so far to health and medicine has been hit-or-miss. We find treatments accidentally. Here’s something that lowers blood pressure. We don’t know why it works. Now we’re actually gaining access to that software, understanding how it works. These technologies will double in power every year. They’ll be 1,000 times more powerful in 10 years, a million times more powerful in 20 years. What I’m looking forward to is the tipping point where we’re adding more time than is going by in terms of life expectancy. The sands of time will start running in rather than running out within a couple decades.

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Filed under Transhumanism

Newborn heart muscle can grow back by itself

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center have discovered that the mammalian newborn heart can heal itself completely.

Researchers, working with mice, found that a portion of the heart removed during the first week after birth grew back wholly and correctly – as if nothing had happened.

“This is an important step in our search for a cure for heart disease, the No. 1 killer in the developed world,” said Dr. Hesham Sadek, assistant professor of internal medicine and senior author of the study available online in the Feb. 25 issue of Science. “We found that the heart of newborn mammals can fix itself; it just forgets how as it gets older. The challenge now is to find a way to remind the adult heart how to fix itself again.”

Previous research has demonstrated that the lower organisms, like some fish and amphibians, that can regrow fins and tails, can also regrow portions of their hearts after injury.

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Filed under Life Extension, Regenerative medicine, Tissue rejuvenation